Bangalore, Cochin and Munnar

I got to Bangalore after an overnight coach, the original coach I was on had been cancelled and there was some confusion over what was going on, a 2 hour wait resulted in being put on another coach, but in a double bunk rather than a single. I really didn’t fancy 13 hours in an enclosed bed with a stranger so made a bit of a scene about getting a single like I had booked etc and low and behold I got one.

Back home in the UK id have never done this, I find myself becoming more confident to complain if thing aren’t ok over here. Be that service, food, accommodation or buses. I feel that if you don’t people will take advantage and walk all over you.

A short tuk tuk ride from the bus found me in my hostel, which was empty, but had the comfiest beds id found in India. I was craving some Dan time so really enjoyed having the room to myself.

Nick had also come along to Bangalore but was staying across the city at a different hostel. We made plans to meet that evening. I decided to head to the Cinema to see the new film set in the Harry Potter world Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I really do enjoy going to the cinema over here, people get so into the films, they are almost like pantomimes at times. Laughter, applause, shocked noises and cheering.

I enjoyed the film a lot and booked at taxi to the other side of the city to meet up with Nick. Now Bangalore if considered India’s silicone valley, it is the tech hub of the country. As technology has grown so has Bangalore. However the city’s infrastructure hasn’t been able to keep up with the influx of techies. The result, the worst traffic I’ve ever seen! My taxi cancelled on me as he wasn’t able to get through to me, the tuk tuk drivers wanted extortionate money to get across the city so I had had to cancel on nick.

We made plans for the next day to go to the Bangalore races. I do enjoy horse racing and was intrigued to see how a country that doesn’t really advocate gambling enjoyed their racing. Nick got himself decked out as if off to royal ascot while I rocked the t-shirt and shorts, much to his chagrin and off we went.

As you can imagine Bangalore racing club is nothing like Ascot. Firstly its a dry course. Both in terms of the ground and the alcohol consumption. The grandstand is also much smaller however I think it probably had a similar number of people there. We decided that after paying our R80 entrance we would stump up the further R100 to go on the stand rather than milling at the side of the track. There are mo independent bookmakers at the track so its all operated on the tote. This means the odds you get when you buy your ticket can fluctuate after the bets been placed. This is done on the betting patterns of everyone else. It can work in your favour or against it.

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I had a couple of winners early on before a run of backing lame horses. Considering I was going completely with the horses names I was quite pleased with my luck. I lost around R1000 but this would have been substantially more had I not won big on the final race!

After the 5th race we had a walk around and started looking through the bars at the owners section of the stands. Due to being the only white guys there we were quickly beckoned through to this section which prompted a conversation with Nick about if we were promoting discrimination by accepting! We did accept mind and got some cracking views for the last races.

We decided to drown our sorrows after the race and went to the famous 5 star hotel The Taj West end. We felt incredibly imperial sat in our 5 star hotel sipping on champagne cocktails and smoking expensive cigars. It was exactly what was needed though, a bit of self indulgent opulence. Fine dining and fine drinks. I spent nearly R10000 in the hotel on food cigars and drink, more than id usually spend in an entire week but it was worth it!!! We followed this up by hitting one of Bangalore’s many nightclubs and I must say by the time I got my taxi home I was a little worse for wear! But id had a fantastic time.

Next stop was Cochin. I booked a bus and jumped in a taxi to the bus stop. Only for the taxi driver to drop me in the wrong place. A 2km walk with all must stuff followed and I was quite grumpy by the time I got on my bus!

I had heard such wonderful things about Kerala and was very excited to get there. I arrived in Cochin in the morning again and had a nice walk along the sea front after dropping off my bags at the hostel. I saw the great fish markets and the Chinese fishing nets along the shore. There were so many different types of fish being caught and cooked on the side shore it was lovely to see.

I befriended an Australian couple and we went off to see some Traditional Keralan martial arts and Kathakali (Keralan dancing theatre)

The martial arts were very impressive. Very well choreographed and executed, the only down side being one of the combatants being 6ft 3 and heavily muscled while the other was a foot shorted and quite dumpy. However he held his own in the demonstration.

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An hour followed of make up, we got to watch the Kathakali dancers getting made up on stage, the make up covers the whole face and completely transforms the actors into these frightening visages.

I must say however I struggled with the Kathakali. While the costume and make up were excellent the performance was not my cup of tea. I couldn’t really follow the story and the music playing gave me a bit of a headache. It doesn’t follow a beat that I as a westerner am used too and the constant clashing of cymbals went right through me. It was similar to the Szechwan opera I had seen in China.

The next day found me taking a day trip out to the backwaters. We got a bus out to our boat, a small dug out canoe being poled by a local man. It felt like an Indian alternative to Venice. You have all heard of 50 shades of grey? Well Kerala is 50 shades of green. The palm trees and mangrove forests have ever shade you can imagine, all of that by the peaceful canals of the backwaters made for a teat to all my senses. The photos I’ve got don’t do it justice. After lunch we swapped to a bigger covered boat and I got to try my hand at poling the boat. It was a lot harder than the chap initially made it look! We saw snakes, kingfishers and cranes while we were out but I was too slow off the draw to get any snaps of these!

I planned out a trip up to the Tea Plantations at the hill station of Munnar, a 4 hour bus inland from Cochin. Bags packed I boarded a ferry and then a bus out into the western Ghats. All was going swimmingly, the bus ride was filled with mind blowing beauty around every turn and I can honestly say the trip there was the most awe-inspiring journey I’ve ever taken on public transport.  Disaster struck enroute to Munnar though. I had become complacent in my checking of water bottles and soon found myself an hour outside Munnar with stabbing pains in my guts, an empty water bottle on the seat next to me.

I booked into an actual hotel as I was feeling so rough and my 3 days of planned climbing, hiking and zip lining soon became 4 days of vomiting, shitting and living in a delirious fevered state. My god I’ve never felt so awful in my whole life. I barely left my hotel room for 4 nights. On the 5th day my fever had passed but I was still passing watery shits every 20 mins. I decided I needed to head back to cochin just in case this required hospitalisation. I was having to check my poos for blood, the final sign of dysentery before I admitted defeat that my body could sort it all out. I decided to forgo any food or drink for 24 hours and took a shit ton of Imodium before getting on the 4 hour bus, preying I wouldn’t shit myself. I didn’t shit myself, but I did nearly pass out several times. A hot claustrophobic but ride down curved mountain roads did not help my dehydrated ill state! I got back to cochin and booked another hotel for 3 nights in the hope id recover. Fortunately I did and was able to explore cochin again. However id gone nearly a week with very little human contact, almost entirely abed. I was not a happy camper and I think had I not already arranged to meet my family in Kovalam for the near year id have sacked it all in and gone home. I was feeling very sorry for myself.

booked a hostel in Varkala, a beach town, for Christmas and boarded that train feeling exhausted, drained and entirely fed up. Things can only get better right…………

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